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John Culley at Trent Bridge
September 24, 2009
Nottinghamshire 328 and 4 for 1 lead Sussex 243 (Nash 135, Adams 4-63, Patel 3-40) by 89 runs
Despite the best efforts of their leading run-scorer, Chris Nash, Sussex found themselves consigned to relegation at about five to five on day two here, as the denouement of the Championship season continued.
As Hampshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire gathered points elsewhere, their outside chance of survival looked more of a lost cause as each hour passed and the disappointment for coach Mark Robinson was that his team failed even in the part of the equation they could influence themselves as they were bowled out for 243, picking up only one batting point where they needed five.
In football manager style, Robinson had made the Sussex team aware of his frustrations at tea on the opening day, reasoning that a figurative kick up the backside might remind them that the fight was not over. He stopped short of throwing crockery (so far as is known) but at least provoked an improvement of sorts in the final session.
Sadly, the effect did not last. At tea on day two, 165 for 4 from 53 overs, Sussex at least had a theoretical chance of claiming maximum batting points, which was a minimum requirement to keep their chance alive. What followed next, however, was not the assured acceleration needed but a rather feeble collapse.
Nash had just completed his fourth hundred of the season, a terrific effort in the circumstances, and the first potentially precious batting point won, when their position was transformed from hopeful (just) to hopeless almost in the blink of an eye as four wickets fell for 16 runs in the space of seven overs.
Now 218 for 8, it meant that Sussex, with just four bonus points and little realistic prospect of any more, would be down even if they won, given that their three relegation rivals already had more points than they could achieve. Hampshire, with four batting points, were already assured of 162, while Yorkshire's three bowling points put them on 159, the same tally as Lancashire were guaranteed after adding two batting points to their three with the ball. Sussex, barring a miraculous recovery by the tail, had limited themselves to 157.
They struggled on to 243 before Samit Patel's third wicket completed their demise but it was all academic. In a season in which batting collapses have been all too regular, they had gone down effectively without a fight, losing their last six wickets for 41 runs as Andre Adams finished with 4 for 63 and Patel 3 for 40.
Two years after winning Championship titles back-to-back, it was a fate that hurt Robinson, despite the team's huge success in winning the Twenty20 Cup, reaching the Friends Provident final and leading the Pro40 title race into the final round on Sunday.
"You can't really say it has been a great season because we have been relegated," he said. "The first division is very tight, probably because we are in a period when there are few outstanding match-winning bowlers, not who compare with, say, Shane Warne or our own Mushtaq Ahmed.
"But the table does not lie and we have not been good enough. It is hard to take but we knew it was coming from last Saturday, when we lost to Yorkshire.
"I had a go at the players at tea on the first day because we had made a commitment to give it a real go and play with a smile on our faces and I did not think we were doing that. But we are mentally tired and like a heavyweight boxer on the ropes there are only so many blows you can take. In the end one of them was going to be a knockout."
Nottinghamshire added 34 to their overnight score before, having belatedly taken the new ball, Sussex picked up the last two wickets, Chris Read trapped in front by Corey Collymore for 88 before Charlie Shreck lost two of his stumps to Dwayne Smith.
Sussex began their reply impressively, reaching lunch at 61 without loss from 22 overs as Nash and Yardy began impressively. But then Yardy stabbed at one outside off stump to be caught behind off the impressive Luke Fletcher, and 74 for 1 became 104 for 2 when the pacy Fletcher struck again to have Joe Gatting caught at third slip.
Murray Goodwin, who has had a generally poor season despite his triple-hundred at Taunton, slapped Shreck straight to point and there was more disappointment when Rory Hamilton-Brown was leg before to Patel's left-arm spin, a decision the former Surrey batsman clearly felt was unlucky, for him at least.
At 165 for 4 at tea, the position was less promising for Sussex, although it was to get worse rapidly after Andrew Hodd lost his middle stump to Adams as the Nottinghamshire swing bowler began an impressive spell.
He had Robin Martin-Jenkins caught behind from an expansive drive and, after Nash, who had been dropped on 61 by Read off Mark Ealham, finally departed to Patel, Adams struck again as Smith hit one straight down the throat Akhil Patel at deep midwicket. Suddenly, Sussex were on the ropes.
It was bad luck on Nash, who had faced 196 balls and hit 22 fours, thoroughly dominating the innings before, thanks to a brilliant piece of anticipation by Ali Brown, running round from slip, he was caught in leg-slip's position off a paddle sweep.
Collymore and Piyush Chawla nudged the total along to 243 but it was all academic in the end, even though the former delivered an early fillip for Sussex's hopes of at least finishing with a win by sending back Bilal Shafayat before bad light closed play for the day.
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